“…please just call me Radio. Radio Silence. I am, after all, only a voice on a radio, and there may not be anyone listening.”
Radio Silence is the best contemporary book I’ve ever read. Full stop. So, buckle in, because this is going to be a full-gush review, because this book was everything. And holy shit did it blow all my expectations out of the water.
I normally give a brief synopsis about the book I’m reviewing here, but Radio Silence almost feels too personal for me to even type this review, to be completely honest. But this is a book about a boy and girl and the different stages of their completely platonic friendship. We get to see them bond over a fandom, and we get to see them discover who they wish they could be.
➽ Frances – Bisexual, biracial (Ethiopian and white), head girl at her high school, and an artist.
➽ Aled – Gay, demisexual, creator of a up-and-coming podcast and Youtube channel.
➽ Daniel – Gay, Korean immigrant, head boy at his high school.
➽ Carys – Lesbian, Aled’s twin sister who has been missing for a while now.
➽ Raine – Indian, selfless angel, who is probably queer, too.
And these five characters come together in this book and create something so beautiful that I don’t even have words for it. But this book can get pretty dark in certain places, so please use caution. Trigger and content warnings for talk of mental illness, implied depression, implied suicidal thinking, parental abuse, physical abuse, extreme invasions of privacy on social media and the internet, very hateful comments to a creator on the internet, and death of a pet.
“This hardly qualifies as a distress call anymore—by gods, if anyone was listening, I would have heard from you by now.”
First off, I want to talk about how people always hail Fangirl as the book they related to going into college, but I think Radio Silence does everything Fangirl does, but a million times better and more relatable. Both of these stories are about kids going into college, unsure of what they want out of life, both feeling like outcasts that can never truly be themselves. Both of these books even focus on fandoms and hidden identities. Hell, they even break up the mainstream story with stories from the fandom they love. The parallels are endless, and I’m not here to be negative about Fangirl, but I only thought that story was okay, where Radio Silence touched my heart and spoke to my soul.
We live in a world where our society puts so much pressure on kids to go to college. And I’m going to be really real with you all for a minute. My college? My parents picked. They knew before I was born I’d go to that college. My degree? My parents picked because science degrees get you jobs. The job I currently have? Because of that degree, not because of my wishes or wants. And I’m very privileged to have the education I have had, to go the college I went to, and to have the job that I currently have. But those core parts of my life were picked for me, and they have and will continue to impact my life forever. And that’s not just a reality for me, that’s a reality for so many people I know. And I’ve never read a book that confronts that the way Radio Silence does.
Radio Silence is a book about living your life for you. It’s okay to not know what you want, or who you even are, but you have to live your life for you. Society’s expectations, your parent’s expectations, your academic leader’s expectations, all of this can feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders. And it can be so heavy. Like, I promise, it feels so heavy sometimes still. But this is a love letter about making the weight not feel so heavy. And I swear to God, I turned the last page of this book and felt lighter. I truly believe books can have healing powers, and Radio Silence healed some of my wounds that I thought stopped bleeding years ago.
“I was going to be happy. Wasn’t I? I was. Uni, job, money, happiness. That’s what you do. That’s the formula. Everyone knows that. I knew that.”
I do think that Radio Silence is a story about becoming who you want to be, even if you don’t know who that person is yet, but I also think it’s a story about living with mental illness. Obviously, I’m not going to pretend that my experience is the end all be all, but mental illnesses are something you have to live with and fight with constantly. Aled is such a realistic character, and his mental illness is something that I think is so relatable to so many younger people (I want to say millennials so badly) and this book is going to mean so much to so many people. I honestly wish I could put this book into every single high school senior’s hands. Because school isn’t for everyone, and college isn’t for everyone, but validity and acceptance are for everyone.
This book also shines a spotlight on how fucking toxic the internet, fandoms, and just human beings in general can be. The things people say to other people, especially the people they claim to idolize, not even thinking twice about how that’s another breathing, living, human being on the other side of the screen that is reading your hurtful words. You all, I could write an entire review on this part of Radio Silence alone. But instead I’m just going to encourage you to read this masterpiece of a book that realistically depicts it better than I ever could.
But my favorite thing about Radio Silence is probably how it is one, gigantic, love letter to art. All kinds of art, all mediums of art, but this book is truly a celebration of art everywhere. The world we live in constantly tells us how art should be a hobby, not a career, but when I sit back and think about the people who I admire most in the entire universe? Well, they are all artists. Instead of constantly belittling art and not encouraging ourselves to pursue it as a mainstream dream, Radio Silence comes along and makes you feel so hyped and excited to celebrate art and creators everywhere. This book is an honest to God gift to the world, I swear it.
My second favorite thing about Radio Silence was the depiction of friendships. The beautiful and light parts, the really ugly and dark parts, the comfortable parts, the hard parts, the selfish parts, the selfless parts, all the realistic parts. When I got a few percent into this book, I knew the author had to be around my age, because this book feels so real. I mean, every element of this book feels really real, but the friendship between France and Aled specifically felt really real to me. Frances and Aled’s friendship felt so much like me and a person I miss with all my heart’s friendship. But I wasn’t as good of a friend, like Frances was, but this book really made me wish that I would have been.
“People move on quicker than I can comprehend. People forget you within days, they take new pictures to put on Facebook and they don’t read your messages. They keep on moving forward and shove you to the side because you make more mistakes than you should.”
My third favorite thing about this book was Frances’ mother. Holy shit, talk about mom goals. Just thinking about how much better of a place this world would be if more parents were like Frances’! Especially when she is contrasted to Aled and Carys’ mom in this story. Unconditional love, support, and acceptance is such a powerful force, especially being wielded by a parent who has a child unsure of who they are. But that force can be just as powerful in the hands of good friends, too.
Overall, I don’t feel like I’m the same person after reading this book. And I know I will cherish it forever. This is easily the best book I’ve read for Pride this year, and easily one of the best books I’ve read in all of 2018. This book literally took a piece of my heart and I will never ask for it back. I can’t wait to read everything else that Alice Oseman creates.
“I wonder—if nobody is listening to my voice, am I making any sound at all?”